Consultation reveals better integration between physical & mental health physicians as top priority

A recent consultation and priority-setting exercise by the NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) highlights the ongoing need to address practical problems experienced by service users and carers in mental health research.  The priority-setting exercise and its results are described in a recent Editorial in the Journal of Mental Health, co-authored by BRC researchers and service user advisors.

The authors of the Editorial argue that involving patients, carers, and service users in the process of setting research priorities is a critical step in the process of doing efficient and useful translational research – the process of transforming breakthroughs in basic science to life-changing treatments for patients.

Previous research has shown that in mental health, service user priorities are not always the same as those of clinicians, and they often emphasise social instead of biomedical interventions – for example, the quality of mental health services, or the development of alternative treatments.

The Maudsley BRC’s priority-setting exercise involved 16 months of consultation and surveys across a wide variety of groups.  The research questions gathered during this process were then further discussed and prioritised in a half-day workshop with 23 individuals, held in February 2016.

The result was a comprehensive list of research questions, outlined in detail in the Journal of Mental Health Editorial.  The advisory group also ranked the research questions – the highest priority identified was improving the way that physical & mental health physicians work together to improve care.  Other research questions identified as most important included removing barriers to early intervention/early diagnosis of mental health conditions, understanding whether (and how) individuals will respond to medications, and ensuring that service users have access to appropriate aftercare and follow-up services.

The Editorial points out that the findings clearly demonstrate the importance of conducting translational research not just in biomedical, but also in social and psychological contexts. Clinical decisions – particularly in mental health – are made based upon social, environmental and psychological information, and this needs to be reflected in the way that research programmes are set and pursued.

Moreover, the authors point out that precision medicine – the concept of producing personalised treatments based on an individual’s personal characteristics – could hold great promise in addressing many of the priorities identified by service users and carers.

According to the authors, “The future of translational research has much to offer service users and clinicians, but researchers should find ways of translating their research ideas to fit practical problems experienced by service users. This will improve the likelihood that people will participate in research, and become more involved in its development. The exercise shows that the needs of service users, carers and researchers do not differ hugely, but the emphasis of the research needs to focus on practical solutions and treatments.”

Read more about the NIHR Maudsley BRC/U strategy for patient and public involvement.

Interested in involving patients or service users in your research, but don't know where to start? Read our guide to research involvement.

Tags: Publications - Patient and Carer Involvement and Engagement -

By NIHR Maudsley BRC at 27 Apr 2016, 11:36 AM

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